By Armen Zakarian
Heads of local administrations from across Armenia were told by the central government in Yerevan on Friday to revise their notoriously inaccurate voter lists in time for the approaching local, presidential and parliamentary elections.
Officials said on Saturday that the authorities want to avoid widespread confusion that threatened to disrupt previous elections when scores of voters were turned back from the polling stations after not finding names in the registers.
The governors of Armenia’s ten provinces and the capital Yerevan as well as representatives of smaller communities, which are responsible for keeping the registers under Armenian law, were summoned to discuss the problem with members of the Central Election Commission (CEC).
The CEC chairman, Artak Sahradian, told RFE/RL that the local government chiefs were instructed to provide precise maps of their electoral constituencies and the number of voters residing there. He said the information will be double-checked by the CEC within the next two months.
Recent by-elections to the Armenian parliament and local government bodies demonstrated that the problem remains acute. The polls were marred with allegations that the local chiefs manipulate the voter lists to ensure their or their allies’ victory. The mayor of the northern town of Ijevan, for example, was last month accused by his rivals of illegally adding the names of several hundred residents of his nearby native village to the municipal registers to win another term.
Sahradian acknowledged that community heads may have acted with a “somewhat criminal intent” and called for tough action against them. He said the punishment in such cases should range from heavy fines to the removal from office. “I believe that it is about time we did that in order to ensure normal elections,” he added.
The local elections scheduled for October will put to the test the success of the effort.